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UK general election 2024 & housing: what to expect

Jenni Hill
Last Updated 12 June 2024

Housing is set to be a key battleground in this year’s snap general election for both Labour and Conservatives, as well as the other political parties. More than 1.5 million homeowners are remortgaging this year - many of which are moving from ultra-low sub-2% deals from a few years ago and could see their repayments go up by hundreds of pounds.

On the other side of the coin, first-time buyers are facing the toughest conditions in 70 years. The average first-time buyer house deposit sits at over £50,000 and takes 10 years to save one up, while the current higher rates are squeezing mortgage affordability.

We have our fingers crossed that the general election will be the shake-up that the housing market needs. Keep reading to find out what each party’s housing policies currently are, and what could be in the pipeline.

In this guide

When is the next general election?

The date of the 2024 general election is Thursday 4th July 2024, which means Parliament will be dissolved on Thursday 30th May. After this, MPs are no longer MPs and all official parliamentary business stops until a new parliament is voted for. If you're over the age of 18, you'll be required to vote on who you want to represent you in the UK parliament. If you've registered to vote, you can vote at a polling station, by post or by applying to have someone else vote on your behalf (known as vote by proxy).

How often is the general election held?

The maximum term of a Parliament is five years from the day on which it first met. The current Parliament first met on Tuesday 17th December 2019 and will dissolve on Thursday 30th May before the 2024 general election on Thursday 4th July, but the election could have been set on any date up till the 28th January 2025.

Learn more: Should I buy a house in 2024?

Why has an election been called now?

The Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is hedging his bets on the election timing. Right now, he has positive stats to strengthen his party's campaign to be re-elected - inflation has dropped, the economy has grown by 0.6% in the first quarter of the year and his Rwanda plan looks like it could lift off (although not until after the election). Plus, waiting till later on this year could be a political suicide. The flurry of big spending commitments from the government on defence, a £10 billion compensation package for the victims of the recent blood scandal and money for victims of the Post Office scandal will mean there's not much left in the coffers for the Autumn Budget.

Usually, the Autumn Budget is the biggest pre-election weapon in the current government's arsenal to convince voters, but this year it could be a non-event so waiting till then wouldn't be a smart move for the Conservatives.

What’s the Conservatives’ housing policy?

The Conservatives have introduced a number of first-time buyer initiatives since they came into power in 2010. These include the Help to Buy scheme in 2013, the Help to Buy ISA in 2015 and the Lifetime ISA in 2017. 

Although the Help to Buy ISA closed to new customers in 2019 and The Help to Buy equity loan ended in 2023, the Lifetime ISA lives on! (Already got a Help to Buy ISA, transfer it to a LISA to access a bigger bonus and be able to buy potentially a more expensive property!).

Our research suggests that first-time buyers who use a Lifetime ISA buy a home 4 years earlier than those without, showing the LISA can be an effective tool to get on the ladder.

But, 8 years after Jeremy Hunt first introduced the Lifetime ISA during his 2016 Spring Budget announcement, more recent budgets have offered very little support to first-time buyers.

Earlier this year, the Chancellor refused to make any changes to the LISA’s rules, despite calls to remove the 25% penalty placed on early withdrawals and increase the maximum property price which has stood at £450,000 since the account’s inception despite house prices rising by 24% since then. 

So, what can we expect from the Conservatives if they’re reelected?

🏠 Boosting housing supply ‘high on the agenda’

The Conservatives are keeping housebuilding as a key part of their 2024 manifesto, promising to deliver 1.6 million homes in England over 5-years by speeding up planning approvals and "scrapping defective EU laws". However, as the last few years have shown this doesn't necessarily mean these targets will be met.

The Conservative government has been unable to meet its target to build 300,000 new homes each year in England by the mid-2020s. 

In 2019-20, there were 248,591 ‘net additional dwellings’, but this fell to 217,754 the following year. Although this was partly due to the pandemic, in 2021-22 and 2022-23, the figure only increased slightly to 235,000 new homes each year. 

Although this original pledge from the Conservatives was included in the 2019 Conservative manifesto, by December 2022 Michael Gove described them as ‘advisory’ rather than ‘mandatory’. 

In a letter addressed to London Mayor Sadiq Khan in December 2023, Gove agreed that ‘housing delivery in London is far below levels needed’ and said ‘it may be necessary to take further action now, as a matter of urgency, to make sure London is delivering the homes our capital needs.’ During the 2023 Conservative Party conference, the housing secretary promised once again to build more homes and said that planning reform is ‘high on the agenda’. 

In the long run, more homes will be a good thing for the property market; by boosting supply this will give more choice to buyers, and should keep house prices from rising astronomically. But it will take a few years for this to have an effect - for first-time buyers looking to get on the ladder now, these new homes are likely to be out of budget. New homes do not necessarily mean cheaper homes - new builds can be as much as 25% higher in price compared to an older property, and are usually smaller. 

Learn more: Rishi Sunak’s housing policy: What help is there for first-time buyers?

🏠 Setting minimum standards for rental properties

The Conservative government’s Renters (Reform) Bill promises to abolish Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions, introduce a new system of rolling tenancies, and set minimum standards for the private rented sector. The Bill was first introduced to parliament in May 2023 and will face a few more stages before it becomes law. Once made into a law, this should provide additional protections for renters and help them make an informed choice before entering into a tenancy agreement.

🏠 The return of Help to Buy

Rishi Sunak has announced that as part of their 2024 manifesto, the Conservatives would bring back a new version of the Help to Buy scheme. The original scheme allowed first-time buyers to purchase an eligible home with just a 5% deposit. The government would then lend you up to 20% of the property price as an equity loan (or up to 40% in London). The remainder you would then borrow from a mortgage lender. 

The equity loan to the government would then be repaid by the buyer over time. The first five years of the loan repayments were interest-free, then after that, they would be charged an initial interest rate of 1.75% which was applied to the original equity loan amount borrowed. After that, every year in April the rate would increase by adding the inflation rate (CPI) (which currently stands at 3.2%) plus 2%. 

One of the problems with this set-up is if your property value increases, so will the amount you owe to the government. So, if your equity loan amount was a 20% equity loan on a £300,000 home, your loan would have been £60,000. But if your house’s value increased to £360,000, you’d owe £72,000, plus interest.

The new and improved Help to Buy scheme would be re-introduced with the old new-build-only rule, but so far a more up-to-date price cap hasn't been announced as part of the scheme, or even a fixed repayment amount to prevent homeowners ending up with a rising loan to repay. 

🏠 Abolishing the leasehold system

In November 2023, the government announced a new Leasehold and Freehold reform bill, which promises to make it easier for leaseholders to buy the freehold of their property and reduce the amount that leaseholders pay in ground rent. 

Wondering how leasehold properties work? Take a look at our guide to the difference between freehold vs leasehold. 

🏠 Scrapping capital gains tax

One of the Conservative's other pledges in their manifesto is to introduce a two-year scheme to phase out capital gains tax for landlords who sell their property to existing tenants. In recent years, new regulations, tightening energy efficiency rules and higher mortgage costs have left many landlords unable to maintain their property investments. This new initiative could help release current Buy to Let properties for sale to first-time buyers.

What’s Labour’s housing policy?

Labour’s housing policy doesn’t have the headline-grabbing first-time buyer initiatives that the Conservatives gave us between 2013-2017, but Labour leader Keir Starmer has promised to deliver the “biggest boost to affordable housing in a generation”, ensuring first-time buyers get first dibs. 

This includes ambitious plans to build one and a half million homes within the first 5 years of being in power, as well as creating the "next generation of new towns" near English cities. 

Such a dramatic rise in housing stock could help to curb rising property prices and make it easier for first-time buyers to get on the ladder. 

🏠 Protecting green spaces and improving communities 

The party has laid out five golden rules to ensure affordable housing is built in a way that ‘protects natural green spaces and doesn’t put undue pressure on public services and infrastructure.’ 

The rules are:

  1. Brownfield first: Develop brownfield land located in the green belt first
  2. Grey belt second: Prioritise ‘poor quality’ green belt land over environmentally-valuable land
  3. Affordable homes: Planning for 50% of homes to be affordable
  4. Boost public services and infrastructure: e.g more school and nursery places, new health centres and more GP appointments
  5. Improve genuine green spaces: making them accessible to the public and adding new woodland, parks and playing fields 

🏠 Improving renters’ rights

Labour has also promised to introduce a Renters’ Charter, which promises to end no-fault evictions, allow renters to have pets, and make reasonable alterations to a property. Landlords will be required to give a four-month notice period, and they’ll also no longer be able to evict a tenant in rent arrears automatically.

Learn more: How to rent like a pro while saving for your first home

Need help getting on the ladder or remortgaging?

At Tembo, we specialise in helping first-time buyers, movers and homeowners boost their affordability, so they can get on the ladder sooner, stay on it or move up it. See what options are available to you by creating a free personalised recommendation today.

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What’s the Liberal Democrats’ housing policy?

The Liberal Democrats have described England’s housing market as “profoundly unfair” and have promised to help first-time buyers and younger generations, rather than focusing their support exclusively on existing homeowners. Like Labour, the Lib Dems believe they can do this by building ‘significantly more’ homes each year, including social houses.

🏠 Abolishing Leaseholds

The Lib Dems say they’ll abolish leasehold on residential properties and end ground rents by cutting them to a nominal fee. This could save homeowners hundreds or even thousands of pounds a year and make it easier for home buyers to get a mortgage

Learn more: Is freehold better than leasehold?

🏠 Improving conditions for renters

The Liberal Democrats are another party promising to improve conditions for renters. Plans include introducing longer default tenancies and banning no-fault evictions. 

🏠 Building more homes

The Lib Dems have put forward a national target for more social homes, aiming to build 150,000 a year by the end of the next parliament. It’ll also introduce new powers for local authorities to build their own social and affordable housing. 

What’s the Green Party’s housing policy?

The Green Party’s housing policy focuses primarily on reducing the number of empty homes and putting an end to Margaret Thatcher’s controversial Right to Buy scheme.  Since Right to Buy’s introduction in the early 1980s, more than 2 million council homes have been sold. The initiative has been popular with social tenants with the ability to buy their home from the council, but its critics say it’s contributed to a shortage of social housing and long waiting lists. 

🏠 Cutting down the number of empty homes

An estimated 1 in every 25 homes are empty and the Greens have pledged that if they were elected, no more than 0.5% of homes would be empty for more than six months. This would allow the government to take over the management of a property, without becoming its legal owner. They’ve also promised to provide funding to councils to help them meet their affordable social housing needs, ensuring an extra 150,000 council homes a year from a mix of new build, refurbishment, conversions and buying up existing homes. 

They’ve also said they would introduce a Right Homes, Right Place, Right Price charter, which would ensure new homes are built to the “highest environmental standards, prioritising brownfield sites, while requiring all new developments come with investment in local services, such as extra school and GP places, better bus services and infrastructure for walking and cycling.” 

The Green Party also want to see a ‘Living Rent’ introduced, where median local rents would be no more than 35% of the local median take-home pay.

On average, we’ve boosted affordability by £82,000

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